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From: The Socialist issue 1093, 1 July 2020: Tories put profit before lives

Search site for keywords: Government - Austerity - Tory - Schools

Boris's new big deal

Boris Johnson, photo Chatham House/CC

Boris Johnson, photo Chatham House/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Boris Johnson has attempted to grab the headlines by bigging up his government's 5 billion post-pandemic spending programme on schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

"Build back greener, build back faster", barked the "tougher than a butcher's dog" prime minister, before the cloud of a reimposed lockdown in Leicester darkened proceedings.

In reality, much of what's been pledged is recycled commitments and announcements by the government. It will do nothing to prevent the economy plunging into the deepest recession in 300 years.

The PM has promised 1 billion extra for schools in England, spread over ten years. But before parents, teachers and students cheer, the National Audit Office points out that 6.7 billion is needed for basic school repairs, and a further 7.1 billion to bring schools up to a 'good condition'.

Decade of austerity

Indeed, a decade of Tory austerity has led to chronic underfunding in health and education. Johnson's spending programme is hardly on the scale of President Roosevelt's spending programme in 1930s America and, as the Socialist pointed out in a recent article ('Roosevelt's New Deal programme - reforms to save capitalism' at socialistparty.org.uk), it largely failed to turn the depressed US economy around.

The PM's investment plans in infrastructure to rebuild the economy is part of his political strategy to retain support in former 'red wall' Labour constituencies, which switched to the Tories in the last general election.

This is deemed necessary by Number 10 because Johnson's standing in opinion polls has plummeted as the government's poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic has become more apparent.

A recent poll for the i newspaper shows a negative approval rating of -7 points for the prime minister compared to a positive rating of +38 in mid-April. And 76% of those polled say the lockdown was implemented too late. However, only 19% of respondents thought right-wing Labour leader Keir Starmer would make a better PM.

Johnson is reportedly insisting there must be no return to austerity, despite the massive funding crisis in councils due to government cuts. Moreover, since being elected to parliament in 2015, he has voted for all the Tory governments' austerity measures. And there was no outcry from him when the 2010 Tory government scrapped Labour's timid 'Building Schools for the Future' programme, which stopped 715 rebuild projects.

Most of the government's largesse will go into private hands. This is despite the failure of private sector companies in building and running hospitals, and having to renationalise the part-privatised probation service, and bailing out the private train operating companies to the tune of 3.5 billion this year.

Green investment?

The Tories support for private developers and landlords, and hostility to council housing, means that the chronic shortage of affordable housing is unlikely to be addressed. The Tories' 2015 'Starter Homes Initiative,' costing 2.3 billion, produced zero new properties!

There is little sign of investment in green jobs such as public transport schemes, energy production, insulating homes, etc. In fact, the previous National Infrastructure Strategy, aimed at tackling crucial environmental issues, has again been kicked down the road, including the manifesto commitment to a national home insulation programme. Johnson has, however, lavished spending on environmentally unfriendly new road building.

The Tory government's bailouts and handouts to big business will do little to address the chronic social problems facing working-class communities, ie jobs, pay, housing, transport, education and other service provision.

The failed capitalist profit system, which Johnson champions, is the root cause of austerity and underinvestment in infrastructure. Only socialist policies can build better, greener and faster.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

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